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The Vanishing Velazquez

by Laura Cumming



In October of 1845 a bookseller in Reading, named John Snare, bought a painting at auction.
The painting was grimy and dry, and Snare bought it a price so low that he began to doubt his original notion that it was a portrait of a young Charles I, and of significant value.
Snare cleaned it up, and then set out to discover what he could of its provenance, and eventually became convinced that it was a royal portrait, and that it had been painted in Spain by Diego Velazquez. Proving it was harder to do.
His attachment to this painting led Snare a long and eventually blasted life, but that forms only a part of this fascinating book. The life and career of Velazquez forms the other part, and Laura Cumming brings to this aspect such a degree of enthusiasm and reverence that you'll be out looking for examples of his work before you finish the book.
Cumming has fashioned a masterful combination of art and history, obsession and mystery, with a gusto that proves irresistible and with the skill and pace of a novelist.
Informed and informative, The Vanishing Velazquez satisfies on every level.